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AAW Member Profiles: C. A. Savoy
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  Member Profile: C.A. Savoy

May 25, 2017  

MEMBER PROFILE: 

C. A. Savoy

Member #8251 


C.A. Savoy holding a cane he turned for the Eagle Cane Project. 

Hooked on Turning
It was not until the mid-1980s that C.A. Savoy first stood at a lathe - when he needed to duplicate a piece of corner molding on an antique high boy chest he was repairing.
 
"I got a basic Craftsman lathe from Sears - tubular bed, cast iron - and went home and scraped out a piece from a paper pattern I had drawn," he recalls. "After that, the lathe went to the corner of the shop gathering dust for the next eight years."
 
Seeing Savoy today, it seems almost impossible that this master turner did not begin to seriously turn wood until he was in his 60s. As the chief operations director and long-time mainstay of Capital Area Woodturners (CAW) in northern Virginia, Savoy is regarded as one of the grand old men of American woodturning, and he is still going strong. Countless novices first learned the best and safest ways to turn wood under Savoy's eye, and in particular how to put the sharpest edge on a tool.
 
Long-time shopmates chuckle when describing Savoy's attention to detail and temperamental demand for best practices in the shop.
 
"You don't want to face C.A. if you don't leave a clean work station or help put the shop back in order," says his friend Patrick O'Brien.     

 

Born in New Orleans in 1933, Savoy is proud of his Cajun roots and the hard work he experienced growing up around the sugar cane fields in Louisiana. After service in the military, he spent 27 years in the American Telephone and Telegraph sales force.
 
In 1993, C.A. and his wife Joyce visited her Ohio cousin who re-introduced him to turning. From that point on, Savoy was hooked. He pulled his old Sears lathe out and began scraping bowls and candlesticks that he admits were "pretty crude." Before long, he was spending six to ten hours a day, every day, at his lathe.
 
"I read books and pretty much taught myself how to turn basic shapes," he says. "But before long I was looking for instruction from the best turners I could find - guys like David Ellsworth, John Jordan, Stoney Lamar, Ray Key, Lyle Jamieson, and JoHannes Michelsen. They became lifelong friends as well as teachers."
 
In 1994, Savoy joined CAW, which was meeting at Bryant School in Alexandria, VA. There was no equipment or demonstration facility at the time, and Savoy remembers that Bonnie Klein was the first demonstrator the club had because she could bring her small portable lathe.
 
Savoy noticed that the Bryant School - an alternative high school - had a fully equipped wood shop that had been idle for years. He offered to restore the shop to full capability if CAW could use the space for workshops and demonstrations. The school agreed, and Bryant has been the principal meeting space for CAW since 1999.
 
For 12 years, Savoy coordinated turning demonstrations at regional Woodworking Shows and has served as long-time Operations Director of CAW, where he has been on the board since 1999, when the organization had nearly 300 members - the largest chapter in the American Association of Woodturners at the time. The club has spun off at least three other chapters, including ones in Winchester, VA; Frederick and Montgomery County, MD; and the Cactoctin Turners in Virginia.
 
Savoy recognized the need for more hands-on instruction for both new and experienced turners, and in 1997 he worked with Don Riggs and Frank Jessup to start the CAW Skill Enhancement Program, which still continues several days a month. He also taught turning for six years at the Woodcraft store in Springfield, VA, and assisted Riggs with adult education classes in Bryant's shop.
 
After the September 11th attacks in 2001, area woodturners and carvers were approached by veterans' hospitals to make wooden canes to give to wounded returning troops. Savoy organized a campaign - known as the Eagle Cane Project - that produced 400 canes, of which CA turned more than a hundred himself.
 
Savoy also engineered the Mount Vernon Project, a historic turning drive to salvage useful objects from a 218-year-old white ash tree that had been planted by George Washington on his estate in Virginia. When the tree was damaged in a hurricane in 2003, CAW was asked if members could turn pieces from a section of the tree that had come down. By July of 2004, the club had produced dozens of bowls, vases, and platters used as commemorative gifts to major donors to the Mount Vernon restoration work.
 
Savoy, who markets Oneway lathe accessories, also is known as a master toolmaker, and over the years has designed and manufactured a variety of gouges and scrapers that have been eagerly purchased by local turners. Savoy says the tools he makes are "only a sideline" that responds to the needs of turners who want custom-made tools.
 
Phil Brown, a founder of CAW and a prominent woodturning artist, gives Savoy the credit for sustaining and building woodturning in the national capital area. "C.A. just works tirelessly on behalf of the turning community, and he does it all quietly and with good grace," says Brown. "He also demands discipline and safety, and those high standards are responsible more than any other reason for the enthusiasm that countless turners have for woodturning."
 
~ Stan Wellborn
 
 
To read more about the Eagle Cane Project click here.
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